School of HDR’s First In-depth HDR Tutorial

School of HDR's First In-depth HDR Tutorial
4 years, 10 months ago Comments Off

Hello and welcome to School of HDR’s very first In Depth HDR tutorial! I’m Malcolm MacGregor and in this tutorial, I’ll show you every step I took to produce this HDR photo of the Nashville Skyline


This will be a 5 step tutorial, beginning with taking the photo in the field


Step 1: Taking the photo

Click the video below to see what steps I go through when taking a photo. Filmed with my iphone, so please excuse the shake! :)

See all the raw photos I took here:

_MG_7466 _MG_7467 _MG_7468 _MG_7469 _MG_7470 _MG_7471

**If you are shooting with a camera other than the 7d, we have a page of instructions on how to set your camera to auto bracket, check it out HERE**


Step 2: Lightroom (or RAW converter)

Now that we have the photos, let’s head to the computer to see what we can do with them. My first stop is Lightroom. If you don’t have Lightroom, just open your RAW files in your favorite RAW converter. Click the video below to see my steps in Lightroom:


Step 3: Photomatix

Now that I’ve exported my .TIFF files into Photomatix, I’m ready to play with the sliders within Photomatix to get the tonemapping results I want:


Step 4: Photoshop

Now I’ve tonemapped the photo, but I’m not done! Now I want to open the tonemapped .TIFF file in Photoshop. This is where the real work begins :) :

Keep in mind that I’m trying to keep these videos to a minimum. You should spend more time getting the masks and adjustments just right. I sometimes spend more than an hour on one image in photoshop :)


Step 5: More Photoshop, that extra touch…

What we’ve got so far looks pretty good, but we can do a little more to give it that extra punch and finish this image off, check it out:

So that’s it! That was every step I took to create the final image of the Nashville Skyline.



For those that don’t want to watch all the videos, here are the key points to remember:

  1. Take an interesting photo. Don’t just plop the camera down and start firing while hoping HDR will fix it later. Plan it out, choose and interesting subject at a good time, think about what you are trying to achieve when you are in shooting.
  2. Cover the exposure range. Be sure to take enough exposures of the scene so that the highlights are properly exposed, all the way through to the shadows. It does not always have to be 6 exposures. I have found that more exposures generally produce a better result. I also think that exposures set at only 1 E/V apart tend to give you better results than exposures set to 2 E/V apart.
  3. Process Your RAW images outside of Photomatix. Personally, I use Lightroom. But the key is converting your RAW files to .TIFF files before importing to Photomatix. Most RAW converters do a much better job at converting than Photomatix does.
  4. Photomatix is pretty awesome. You should buy it – and use discount code malcolmphoto for a discount :)
  5. Photomatix is just the beginning. Use an editing program, such as Photoshop, to add the final touches. Keep your image clean, and maybe even a little flat in Photomatix. This will help when doing to the final touches in photoshop.
  6. Every image is unique. Just because I used these settings for this image, doesn’t mean I’ll use the same settings for the next image. Don’t follow these tutorials expecting to get the exact settings to use every time. Adjust the sliders until you get a feel for how they affect your image.


If you’ve found this tutorial useful, please share it with your friends who may also be interested in HDR photography. Leave me a comment or send us a message with your feedback, we’d love to hear from you.

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